Bread and butter pudding was one of the puddings of my childhood, sitting at the bottom of a low oven after the roast has come out of it. The one my Mum made was whisked to oblivion, so the custard ballooned up in the oven like a souffle, but my version is (in this respect, at least) simpler: hot milk poured over egg yolks and sugar, no elbow grease required.
My mother always made this pudding with pineapple jam, so I do too. But I’ve also made it with marmalade, once some rose jam that I found at the back of my cupboard, even lemon curd. It’s not totally essential to the pudding, but is a nice addition. What is essential is the texture: bread and butter pudding should be crusty on the outside – aided here by the demerara crunch – and custardy soft inside. But that comes from a rich custard, and soaking the bread for 10 to 15 minutes before baking.
This is an extravagantly rich version of a pudding for what was once simply an economical way of using up stale bread. It uses brioche, cream and a handful of eggs. But I don’t feel too guilty about complicating matters, given that the first recorded recipe – by Eliza Smith in 1728 – required 500g of butter, 500g of dried fruits, as well as a puff pastry base.
Thank you Eliza for validating our modern day pudding dishes with your own 10th century lavishness.
Bread and butter pudding
1 loaf of brioche (about 400g)
150g marmalade or jam
3 tablespoons caster sugar
200ml whole milk
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
1. Slice the loaf of brioche into 1.5cm slices, and spread with butter and the preserve of your choice. Half each slice diagonally, so you have triangles of bread.
2. Place the triangles of bread in a large, oven-safe dish.
3. Make the custard by heating the milk on the stove over a low heat. Whisk the eggs with the sugar for a couple of minutes in a separate bowl, then pour the milk gently into the eggs, stirring it into the mixture.
4. Pour the mixture over the bread slowly, making sure that the whole dish is covered with custard. Leave to soak for 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 170°C. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.
5. Cook for 45 minutes until the top of the pudding is golden and crusted, and there is still a slight jiggle to the custard. Serve straight away.